Sunday, March 4, 2012

Appreciating Spectra In Life

Almost two years ago now, I had a particularly rough loss in my family. I was blown away by the suddenness and the gravity of the situation. I can easily recreate the phone call with my mom and the subsequent talks with my brother and dad. I remember going back to my house and writing down everything I could remember about her. I wrote the good and the bad, and didn't try or want to sugar coat the situation. I played "The Night They Drove Dixie Down" on guitar, and felt surreal and disconsolate.

Months later I was able to listen to Levon sing that song again without holding back tears. But I had learned a incredible lesson. I also was overwhelmed by the positive response throughout our family and the kindness of friends.

In a more mundane yet still interesting turn of events, my attempt at musical solace reminded me of a high school girl friend who listened to exclusively sad music when she was sad. Whatever her problems were, they could only be worsened by meditating on them and wallowing in her own self pity by listening to James Blunt. At the time, I thought it was pathetic and it made me cringe. I thought she was giving in, and being a baby for doing it. In similar situations, I reacted very differently, usually preferring, if particularly angsty as I know all of you have grown to know me, to instead play some particularly vicious street hockey and crank GnR through my headphones.

But since Lisa's passing, I have grown to change my mind. I think instead I was being a baby for running away from the low end of the scale of emotions. Diving into sadness can be meaningful tool for self exploration. It can help you come to terms with how you actually feel instead of leaving you wondering if you really are sad, or just a little peeved, or if you deserve to be crying, or if you can cry anymore, or if you need to go deeper.

Like I learned recently through Gil Pender in Midnight in Paris, it is also escapism to live in the past and not confront the issues of your time. Living an overly nostalgic life, another thing I do sometimes criticize myself for, is missing out on a huge part of the temporal spectrum. In a particularly fitting way though, Owen Wilson's character is not totally full of escapist flaws. He prefers Paris in the rain. This may be for romantic more than personally exploratory reasons, so I'm not building a perfect analogy but nevertheless, I see this as a truthful attempt to enjoy the full reaches of the weather spectrum, an appreciation of the normally disregarded and disappointing. People who can do this, I think remain more centered and in control of their emotions, if only because they've seen more emotions total and can put things in perspective.

It's unbelievably lucky that I've lived a life where it took me so long to experience intense loss, and perhaps also I hadn't been old enough to appreciate other situations that could have felt like this. Life is surely not always going to be good, but it's nice to know that we can develop ways to make contact with the past and future positives or sometimes even appreciate the negative times as chances to grow. To be a complete person, and I think I speak from a matured point of view in this, it is important to not hide from the ends of spectra in your life. By doing so, it weakens perspective on the remainder. There is something very human about enjoying the range of emotional content we can feel. For me, I would be doing a disservice to being given the gift of feeling if I didn't try to feel everything, for good or for bad. Not everyone would agree, and there is no logic to this, just a visceral hankering. There are probably feelings out there that I wouldn't want. But the idealist in me thinks it would still be worth it to experience them if they didn't last forever.

PS. I'll also leave you with a few of my favorite sad songs. These are the ones that can bring and have brought tears to my eyes. I love 'em.

I Think It's Gonna Rain Today

Little Delia

I Will Be There When You Die

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